If you've spent the pandemic on your own — or even if you find yourself at sea with your partner or roommates — you understand that not even the most retiring introvert can live happily with this much isolation. Loneliness is no joke, and its effects on your physical and mental health can be troubling. Even without reaching out for company, however, you can trick your brain into breaking through it.
Researchers in California and China have just published a study on one surprising way to soothe your company-starved self. All it takes is doing something small and special just for yourself, every day. "We found that something as simple as preparing tea in a certain way, as long as it's interpreted as a ritual, can make the experience more meaningful," said coauthor Thomas Kramer. "This makes people feel less lonely."
Rituals are all about imposing meaning on the world, and they don't have to be particularly solemn or significant. Maybe you like eating the filling of an Oreo last, or you take a daily picture of a houseplant as it grows. It doesn't matter how weird or ordinary your ritual is, as long as creates a little bit of structure in your life.
Being lonely has measurable effects on your body, much like being hungry. It's a chronic condition for millions, and creating personal rituals won't do away with it. But if you're tired of Zoom and looking for a safe way to connect with people, give another old practice a try: calling someone on the phone.